Walker's Crossing

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Ryan Walker has always known what he wants to be -- a cowboy, like his father was before being injured in a riding accident. But when Ryan's older brother, Gil, becomes a member of the Mountain Patriots Association, a militia group that wants to keep Wyoming free from immigrants, minorities, and government interference, Ryan finds himself questioning things he's taken for granted all his life. As tensions in the community build to inevitable violence, Ryan is torn between his love for the world in which he grew ...
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Ryan Walker has always known what he wants to be -- a cowboy, like his father was before being injured in a riding accident. But when Ryan's older brother, Gil, becomes a member of the Mountain Patriots Association, a militia group that wants to keep Wyoming free from immigrants, minorities, and government interference, Ryan finds himself questioning things he's taken for granted all his life. As tensions in the community build to inevitable violence, Ryan is torn between his love for the world in which he grew up and his sense of fairness and decency. How can he stand up for what is right when he's not sure what that is?

While living on his family's ranch in Wyoming where he hopes to someday be a cowboy, Ryan faces conflicts with his older brother who becomes involved in a militia movement.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Tackling the subject of militia movements in this timely novel, Naylor (Sang Spell; Shiloh) creates a sympathetic character in her protagonist, Ryan Walker, a Wyoming seventh grader who tentatively explores the weapons-bearing, government-hating, profoundly racist Mountain Patriots Association, which his older brother has joined. What's daring (and skillful) about Naylor's approach is that Ryan doesn't automatically reject the group's doctrines: "Half the time, anyway, they made sense. The rest, Ryan wasn't sure." The stage for Ryan's susceptibility is carefully set: Ryan's mother, badly undereducated, favors the older brother, Gil, and is proud when Gil is made a brigade commander; Ryan's father, in constant pain from a disabling injury, is slow to make his views known; and Ryan, unusually tall, has never fit in at school. Ryan's essential decency triumphs early on, but at some cost; Naylor keeps the stakes high for readers as she knits an atmosphere of impending tragedy. Details about ranch life and the rural setting add color, while Ryan's well-grounded ambition to be a cowboy creates a classic American-dream motif that subtly opposes the militiamen's creeds. The issues and the characters are developed fairly and the plot builds solidly past a surprise climax to a credibly optimistic resolution. Ages 10-14. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Seventhgrader Ryan Walker's dominant goal in life is to become a fullfledged cowboy on Saddlebow Ranch in Wyoming where Ryan and his family live. Ryan's father, Lon, had been cow boss on the ranch, but after injuries from a horse accident force him to give up the job, Lon becomes ranch caretaker. The change eats at him and his family becomes wary of Lon's often sour moods. Ryan works long hours each weekend lending a hand at the ranch foreman's place. As he observes the foreman and head of the cow crew, Ryan gains valuable knowledge and skills. Meanwhile, his older brother Gil is involved in planning a war as an active member of a local militia group, the Mountain Patriots Association. Gil and his cohorts are convinced that immigrants, minorities, and the U.S. government are dedicated to stealing land from the locals. They respond to this perceived threat by raising arms. Ryan is torn between his consideration for his brother and his distaste for bigotry and hatred. Inevitably violence erupts, and Ryan is involved in chaos that eventually launches him on the difficult road to manhood. Walker's Crossing is the author's onehundredth book and bears all the hallmarks of her best work including a topical, intriguing plot; engaging, believable characters; and lean vivid prose. Girls might enjoy this absorbing novel, but it seems aimed at the toughtoreach younger teen boys. Put it in their hands and they will be rewarded with a compelling account of hardship overcome and the consequences of making tough moral choices. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to9).1999, Atheneum/S & S, Ages 12 to 15, 240p, $16. Reviewer: Randy Brough
To quote the review of the hardcover edition in KLIATT, Nov. 1999: This is an interesting book about a 7th grade boy in rural Wyoming whose family and community are ruined by the growing strength of a local militia: a hate-Jews-blacks-and-immigrants kind of group that calls itself Mountain Patriots Association. Ryan's family lives on a ranch and Ryan loves the life and wants nothing more than to work as a cowboy, taking on more and more responsibilities, as he gets older. His best friend Matt is a neighbor whose father is the head of the militia. Ryan goes along with the rhetoric as a loyal friend, until Matt insults another classmate because she has a Greek heritage. Ryan's older brother Gil is completely caught up in the group, relishing his role as a militia leader in an otherwise impoverished life. Eventually a violent act causes a crisis in all their lives, and Ryan must choose which side he is on. Naylor has done an excellent job of expressing the confusion of a boy such as Ryan when he agrees with certain ideas, questions others, doesn't know too many facts for himself, and wants to be accepted. She credits the Southern Poverty Law Center for providing facts about the militia movement. Along with the authentic militia details is an equally moving, dramatic parallel plot of Ryan's experiences as an aspiring cowboy, working in the bitter cold of a Wyoming March helping with the birthing of hundreds of calves. The beauty of the mountains, the freedom of riding alone on a favorite horse, all these exotic (to urban readers) parts of ranch life are quite vividly described. As we know from her highly successful Alice series, Naylor gets family dialogue and dynamics just rightevery time. The cover art of the paperback is highly appealing. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 1999, Simon & Schuster, Aladdin, 232p. 98-50217., $4.99. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; KLIATT , July 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 4)
Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Ryan Walker is the middle son of a Wyoming ranching family, cast in the shadow by his charismatic if aimless older brother, Gil. Ryan longs to be a rancher, but his pure love of the West is tested when the white-supremacist Mountain Patriots Association begins to harass a local family. When his best friend follows his parents' strict racial prejudices, Ryan is stunned to find blatant racism in his school and town. He must struggle to discern fact from slander, the importance of emotional ties, and the fine line between teasing and cruelty. Naylor has written a gripping testament to the basic, if little-exercised, freedoms of those in the United States, freedoms that must intrinsically be balanced with tolerance. Ryan gradually discovers the maturity that comes from accepting that one's beliefs and values can differ from those of friends and family. Casual cruelty and racism of the children and adults in the area is competently portrayed, while a teacher's delightfully calm encouragement of violently opposing views in her classroom is satisfying if unrealistic at times. Ryan's solemn father, convinced that his older son's beliefs are a phase, occasionally seems ill cast against the boys' racist mother. The nature of the story requires the included racially offensive language and violence, which is occasionally shocking. An exciting, important study of the need for individuals to claim and defend their beliefs while defending the freedoms of others as well.-Mary B. McCarthy, ACLIN/Colorado State Library Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-With a calm, reassuring voice, actor Tom Wopat guides listeners through Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's thought-provoking story (S&S, 1999) that is filled with some of the most wrenching questions a citizen can face. It is the story of Ryan Walker, a Wyoming seventh-grader, who must confront the extreme views of white separatists in his community and in his own family. We follow Ryan from his dawning awareness of the questionable views of his brother and a close friend to the moment where he must declare his own beliefs and act on them through the aftermath of his decision. Naylor has created credible characters on both sides of the debate. Wopat gives Ryan a soft, yearning-to-understand voice, and his brother, Gil, a more strident tone as he becomes more involved in the militia. To bring a sense of place and atmosphere to the story, Wopat creates marvelous cowhand and trucker voices which help set the scene in wide-open Big Sky country. Even Wopat's goofy voice used for Ryan's friend who meets up with a girl he likes is perfect. The subject of extremism is handled even-handedly by Naylor, and Wopat's measured reading of even the most incendiary statements allows listeners to judge the actions and beliefs of the characters just as Ryan must do as he confronts the reality of intolerance all around him.-Kathy Slattery, Corpus Cristi School, Pacific Palisades, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689842610
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 6/1/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 837,543
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 0.55 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 8.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has written more than 135 books, including the Newbery Award–winning Shiloh and the Alice series. She lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland. To hear from Phyllis and find out more about Alice, visit AliceMcKinley.com.

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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter Thirteen

Christmas wasn't too different from any other day at Walker's Crossing. You still had to get up early, feed the horses and cattle, put down fresh hay, milk the dairy cows. Lon and Doris Walker let their kids pick out something they wanted from Teepee's or from a catalog, and there was a turkey for dinner.

There had been another big snow before Christmas, and it seemed to Ryan that half his life was spent digging out paths to the barn and the shed, if not at home, then over at Hank's. He liked to stay busy, though. Liked being out of the house.

Gil had been gone almost every weekend, and every week he looked more and more like a general -- acted like one, anyway. With the Sheldons' barn gone, the men had been meeting in an outbuilding over at Big Ed's place. They bragged that the Feds may have burned the barn, but they didn't get the guns and ammo, which had been buried under the dirt floor.

Gil had taken to wearing his camouflage shirt and pants even when he wasn't going off on maneuvers, and T. P. had told him he'd rather he didn't wear them at the gas pumps on weekends. He'd given all his help navy blue fleece parkas with Teepee's in red on the backs, and he expected them to wear them. Gil put the parka on over his camouflage shirt, but he still wore his combat boots.

He had put up a table-sized artificial tree in his basement bedroom on which he hung, as ornaments, little red and white nooses. Sid got them somewhere, he said, and was passing them around as a joke. Gil and his friends wished each other a White Christmas and a "Jew-Free" New Year. Ryan almost asked his dad what he thought about it, then decidedhe'd better keep his mouth shut. It was Christmas, after all.

"Dennis," Ryan said to the lean, gray man one evening in January, watching him shoe a horse, the horse's hoof tucked between his knees. "Do you believe everything they say about the Jews?"

Dennis Shay took another nail from his pocket and pounded it into the hoof. "What who says?"

"I don't know. Everyone."

"Now what in the world made you ask me a question like that?" Dennis said. "I can't hardly say I've known many Jews. Not any at all, I guess. Not to talk to, anyway."

Ryan gave a nervous laugh. "Some of it's really wild. I mean, Kevin -- this guy at school -- says he read on the Internet that Jews use the blood of Christian children to make matzo."

"Oh, come on!" said Dennis, not even looking up.

"But you keep hearing how they've taken over New York City and the government, too," he continued. "And how they really aren't God's chosen people at all -- we are."

Shay examined the horseshoe, pushing at it with his thumbs to see if there was any wiggle, then let the hoof drop and gave the horse a pat.

"Well, now, I don't keep up with all that church stuff, but I don't guess God plays favorites. That he likes one kind of people better'n he likes another. You can sure stir up a mess of trouble with that one."

"But do you think they're trying to come out here and take Wyoming away from us?"

"There's enough land out here to buy; they don't have to take it. Why wouldn't someone want to live here? We do. We're not the only people in the world who like the big sky."

They were quiet for a while -- Dennis examining the horses' hooves, Ryan leaning against the railing. Finally Dennis tipped the brim of his hat up so he could get a better look at Ryan and said, "What's eating at you today, cowboy? Somethin' on your mind?"

"Oh, it's just this stuff I'm hearing from Gil. About Mexicans coming in and getting our jobs, and Japs and Jews buying up our land. Like a war, almost. It is, sort of, because Mr. Sheldon's got..." He started to tell Dennis about the guns, then stopped. That was probably something he wasn't supposed to mention.

Dennis, however, didn't seem particularly interested. "What it's all about, Ryan, is change," he said in his slow way of speaking, drawing out the final word of each sentence, like the slow swing of a door. "There are folks who take to it and folks who don't."

"How about you?" asked Ryan.

"Heck, I have to take to it. Couldn't work on a ranch if I didn't. Things are changing all the time -- the kind of feed that's best for cattle, the way we plant, the way we breed....The market changes every day. You got to keep your mind open to change or you don't survive in this business. New people come along with new ideas about how to do things, and you got to ask yourself, 'What can I learn from this person? What new thing can he teach me?'"

"Change isn't always good, though," Ryan countered.

"No. Reckon not. And there are some big problems -- illegal immigrants, for starters. But you got to keep your eye on the big picture, and not take your frustration out on some poor soul who only wants a better life, same as we all do. Now I don't know what Gil's got himself mixed up in, but the way I see it, there's two things you can do to move yourself up in this world. The first is to become better at what you do, so you earn it. The second is to tear down everybody around you, make 'em look small just so's you'll look a little taller yourself." He winked at Ryan. "And you ask me, you don't need to look an inch taller than you are now."

Ryan returned his grin.

Copyright © 1998 by Chiaroscuro Productions

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 9, 2010

    Excellent Book!!

    Walker's Crossing is a excellent book because the subject of the book is that racism and prejudice can happen in places where we least expect them. The main character of the novel, Ryan, has two problems in the novel. One of the problems is he doesn't know if he's going to work with the adult cowboys handling the cattle or if Moe's nephew is going to get the job. The biggest problem he has is with his brother Gil. Ryan and Gil have problems because Gil has radical ideas about people. Gil talks about people that Ryan has never met. That's where his problem is, he doesn't know if he should agree with Gil or not because he has never met people of whom Gil talks about. Other events in the novel really help Ryan decide if he should follow his brother's radical ideas about other people. The setting of the book is perfect for the plot. I've never been to Wyoming but the novel tells you how people live there and gives you a mental picture of Wyoming. The novel is excellent because the book gets interesting in every chapter. I would recommend it to any person except for children because it has mature topics, that a child should not be hearing. That is why Walker's Crossing is a excellent book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2001

    Very Good Book

    I would give this book 5 stars because it is the truth about the world. Ryan Walker is caught in a controversy between good and evil.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2000

    Why People Are Racist........

    Have you woundered....why do people hate each other? Well I don't really know, but one reason pointed out in this book is a very strong reason. To find out you should read it. For people age 12-20. READ ON!

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